29

I work as an application engineer in a small (~20 people) multimedia software company and I have remote clients and our Asian re-seller coming from South Korea for a business visit.

I am junior and I am heavily involved in some features that particular client uses or request. I don't know the exact client schedule but the CEO told me that they will have one or two hour window to meet the engineering team at the office.

I only have rare opportunities to meet remote clients, and I would like to take full advantage of their presence to understand them as customers of our software product. Furthermore I want to display a good level of professionalism.

How should I proceed to prepare for this visit?

  • 8
    Can you add the country? I suspect answers to this question will be heavily influenced based on culture. – enderland Nov 10 '14 at 14:42
51

Client visits in which you aren't given an exact meeting time and agenda are not the time to "take full advantage of their presence to understand them as customers of our software product".

These are generally meet and greet. They simply want to put a name/voice to a face, shake a few hands and ask, in general, how things are going. In short they are just looking around your company to get a "good feeling". Often the only real meeting they'll have is with management while simply walking through the office.

As the junior person, your job is to look nice, appear interested in whatever they have to say, smile a lot and be quiet unless you are asked a direct question. In other words: be seen and not heard. The managers/CEO are going to drive the conversations.

That said, take this opportunity to discuss with your manager exactly what it is they expect out of you. They will likely tell you to just be ready, which basically means follow their lead and don't interrupt.

  • 5
    "As the junior person, your job is to look nice": That sounds a bit harsh. It cannot hurt to tell your manager that you want to "understand them as customers of our software product". Maybe the client can actually take the time to talk, maybe not. That is then up to management and the client to decide. And if no time for talking is scheduled, then it is indeed inappropriate to try asking complex questions. – sleske Nov 10 '14 at 15:34
  • 4
    @sleske: It really wasn't meant to be harsh, although I can see how you took it that way. We don't have clients do onsite visits very often, but when clients do show up it's a pretty simple affair. Dress up, smile, nod and generally just be friendly. Even at places where I was just one of the minions all the clients really wanted to see was that there actually were people doing something. Point is that you want to save the real stuff for when everyone is aware and prepared for it. – NotMe Nov 10 '14 at 16:21
  • 12
    @sleske Rank is very important in East Asian business cultures. I don't know how well this particular Korean business understands American culture but since this is a first-time reach out, it's best to let those who represent the firm do the talking on behalf of the firm. There is nothing that stops you, as a junior employee, to submit questions to the seniors for asking. But for an initial contact, it's best not to take chances and let the first contact go as smoothly as possible, As they say, THE FIRM doesn't get a second chance to make a first impression. – Vietnhi Phuvan Nov 10 '14 at 18:17
12

I am junior and I am heavily involved in some features that particular client uses or request

There's the key right there. Since you're junior, follow the lead of the more senior staff and let them do the talking, because that's what will be expected.

The best way you can prepare is to know your subject and know the features that concern them and be prepared to answer any questions that might be directed at you.

Dress well (but not overdressed) and look professional. Smile often. Do these without being creepy though. You need to look relaxed. Relaxed implies confidence and confidence is what your clients need to see. If you're confident in your team, they will be too.

  • 2
    It's considered impolite in all East Asian cultures to make eye contact. And if you are a junior employee, let the seniors take the lead, do the talking and represent the firm and don't run interference with your seniors. – Vietnhi Phuvan Nov 10 '14 at 16:52
  • I agree with everything you said. I had no idea it was impolite with Asian cultures. Will edit to reflect that, thank you. – Chris E Nov 10 '14 at 16:59
  • 1
    A junior employee represents the firm best by being present - and strong and silent. If a junior employee wants to ask questions, they should submit them to the seniors for asking. Let the seniors do the talking. – Vietnhi Phuvan Nov 10 '14 at 18:20
  • Are you commenting on the right answer? I said "let them do the talkjng" – Chris E Nov 10 '14 at 18:23
  • 2
    I think so. We really want the firm to speak with one voice, which is why the seniors should be the ones doing the talking. I am backing what you said. Is that a bad thing? :) – Vietnhi Phuvan Nov 10 '14 at 18:32
7

The other answers here are generally right - I just thought i'd add that you're probably not going to get a real chance to do anything with the clients. After all, the CEO is going to be trying to sell them something.

I know he said you'd all have a chat, but typically the sell-side goes overlong, and then the chat gets cut back.

So in the office, it is unlikely they will talk to you much more than "hello".

If you are brought into any meetings, as @ChristopherEstep & @ChrisLively have noted, your absolute goal in the meetings is to not rock the boat. If you have any good questions or suggestions, then I would encourage you to bring them up during whatever meeting you're in, as long as they're pertinent to the meeting at hand.

Now, this might change depending on the involvement you have with these guys - when you say you are heavily involved, are you client facing? ie are you chatting to them determining requirements? Or are you given the requirements by someone else in the company?

If you're client-facing then some member of the client party may know who you are, in which case...

You might get invited to some sort of after-hours drinks thing. The important thing here is to

  1. not assume familiarity with the clients and get v. drunk
  2. don't get v. drunk
  3. just don't. Also, don't mention any issues you might have with your company, or disagreements you've had with anyone about anything in the company. You're trying to make your company look good, not yourself here (because it is unlikely you will get too much gain from it).
  4. Also, keep politics out of it too. Pretty much, just have a nice time with them talking to them about stuff that might be interesting. And don't get v. drunk.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.